Whether it’s planting new flowerbeds, nurturing an allotment or simply tending to your indoor plants, gardening can have a huge impact on your physical and mental health. Here are 8 proven reasons you should get green-fingered…

Scientists are finding more and more evidence for the ways in which gardening enhances our wellbeing – from increasing our productivity to decreasing anxiety levels. We asked the Royal Horticultural Society’s chief horticulturist Guy Barter for his top reasons to take up gardening.

1. You’ll feel happier

A study by Bristol University found bacteria in soil can trigger the release of serotonin, which elevates mood and decreases anxiety. This means contact with soil through weeding, planting or even just re-potting your indoor plants may actually give you a significant mood boost.

2. You’ll burn more calories

Continued light exercise such as gardening can burn more calories than a gym session, according to a recent study by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. Because gardening tends to be lower intensity, we tend do it for much longer than the average gym session, and the calories start to add up. On average, we burn up to 400 calories an hour pulling weeds and planting flowers – more if you’re mowing the lawn, raking or digging.

3. You’ll feel a greater sense of purpose

According to Stephen Buckley, head of information for mental health charity Mind, caring for a garden gives us a sense of fulfilment and helps us feel connected to something, which is linked to improved self-esteem and decreased levels of anxiety. Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of Thrive – a charity that helps mental health sufferers through gardening – also says that any type of gardening can help reduce feelings of isolation. Gardening also gives those with depression an opportunity to go outdoors, showing the act of nurturing plants can have a substantial impact on our mental health.

4. You’ll make healthier food choices

Whether it’s in your own garden or as part of an allotment, if you grow your own you’re likely to be more mindful about what you put on your plate. A study led by the Centre for Research and Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona found that in 12 schools where children were taught about growing their own food, the kids all increased their fruit and vegetable consumption. Growing your own also means enjoying nutrient-rich food at its flavour peak, while reducing your carbon footprint.

5. You’ll have fewer health complaints

Don’t have your own garden? Having an allotment was reported by Japanese plot-holders to enhance general and mental health, to reduce health complaints and to strengthen social unity. The benefits were so prominent that the local government is looking into creating more allotments as an effective investment for cutting the costs of sickness in society.

6. You’ll be more productive

Dr Chris Knight at Exeter University found that employees were 15% more productive when their workplaces were filled with a few indoor plants. This is because the office environment was not only more pleasant, but also helped them feel more engaged with their surroundings through having to water and tend to the plants. As a result this increased their effectiveness – enhancing concentration and reducing the incidence of mistakes – more than those in an office with no plants.

7. You’ll have an increased sense of belonging

When Johns Hopkins University conducted interviews with community gardeners they reported a host of social benefits. Not only did it give gardeners a connection to nature and plants to take pride in, it also helped to build a community and break social barriers. Plus, creating gardens in an urban setting helps everyone access fresh, organic food.

8. You’ll be more independent 

We can benefit as much from viewing a garden as we can from spending time in it, say researchers at the University of Warwick. When investigating older people’s wellbeing in housing developments, they found having a green view – specifically a private garden or patio – to look out onto from their living area, made them feel more positive and independent.

Want to know the secret to feeling happier? Read our 11 science-backed ways to boost your positivity.

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